Universal credit: How to claim

Universal credit advances: If you need help before your first payment

This page has been updated following the coronavirus outbreak

Get an advance

You usually have to wait at least 5 weeks for your first Universal Credit payment after you apply.

If you need money while you’re waiting, you can ask for an advance payment. This is an interest-free loan you pay back through future universal credit payments.

It can help with things like:

  • rent
  • gas and electricity bills
  • food

It is a good idea to apply for an advance payment as soon as possible. There may be a delay to your application because of the increase in claims during the coronavirus outbreak. 

You can also apply for an advance after you report a change of circumstances that means you’ll get more money.

Other ways to get help

For help with one-off or unforeseen expenses when you’ve been claiming universal credit for at least 6 months, you can apply for a budgeting advance.

Get advice from Shelter if you’re in rent arrears

How much you can get

You can get the full amount of your estimated first payment. It’s best to only take what you need because repayments will be deducted from your future universal credit.

Before you apply, work out your outgoings and make sure you know exactly which expenses you have to cover.

'Only take what you know you'll be able to pay back'

Fabiola shares her experience of getting a universal credit advance and offers some advice if you're thinking of doing the same.

How to apply


You can apply online before you receive your first payment.

Once you log in to your account, select the option to apply for an advance payment.


Call the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm

Through Jobcentre Plus

Tell your work coach you need an advance. You could do this during your first interview with them.

What to say when you apply

Give as much information as you can about why you’re in financial need and how an advance will help you.

For example, you could explain that you:

  • are in rent arrears
  • can’t afford to eat
  • don’t have enough for bills
  • don't have any other income or savings

You’ll normally be given a decision about whether you can get an advance on the day you apply.

When you’ll get the money

It can take up to 5 working days to receive the advance, but payments often come through quicker.

Ask for the money to be paid on the same day if it’s an emergency.

The advance will be paid into your bank, building society or credit union account.

Paying back the advance

You have up to 12 months to pay back an advance through future payments, although you could choose to repay it more quickly.

After you’ve applied, you’ll be told how much will be taken from your universal credit award each month.

If you stop claiming universal credit before the advance has been paid back, you’ll be contacted about repaying it from other benefits or earnings.

Ask for repayments to be delayed for up to 3 months if you’re struggling. Speak to your work coach or a universal credit adviser about this.

Contact Citizens Advice if you can’t afford the payments on your advance

If you’re refused an advance

Ask your work coach or the adviser to reconsider, pointing out exactly how an advance will help you.

You can’t appeal if you’re not accepted for an advance.

You might be refused an advance if you:

  • haven't shown you’re in financial need
  • are close to receiving your first universal credit payment
  • can't afford to repay the advance in 12 months

Last updated 02 Apr 2020 | © Shelter

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